A lot of incidents have to happen in order for two teenage guys to discover themselves. Benjamin Alire Sáenz, author of the novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, does an excellent job in writing exciting incidents that will force the main characters to make decisions that will later on prove to be a turning point in their lives.
Protagonist Aristotle, nicknamed Ari, knows little about himself and thinks he’s a heartless, selfish creature, until the day Dante almost got hit by a car: “[Ari] remember[ed] the car swerving around the corner… [he] woke up in a hospital room. Both of [his] legs were in a cast” (Sáenz 110). Ari didn’t even realize he saved Dante’s life. When his parents and Dante’s parents ask why he did it, he denies that he actually made the choice, and it was more of a reflex. Deep, deep down, though, he knew that it was his choice to save Dante’s life. This is a very dramatic incident, and it is only then when he started getting to know himself. The event forced him to make a decision – to save Dante or not. After no hesitation, he decided to save Dante. This really shows his character, and how he has a heart and just wants others to be safe and happy. Even though he acts like an uncaring teenager on the outside, he’s a very kind and selfless person, and that’s what really matters.
After that depressing incident, Dante’s father relocated to Chicago. That means 8 months that Ari and Dante have to be apart. Here, our very indecisive protagonist is faced with another challenge. Ari’s mom asks if he’s written back to Dante yet, and he replies with a simple “‘Not yet’” (180) and “I don’t need Dante” (183). Dante’s moved far away, and he writes to Ari once a week, obviously trying to keep in touch. Ari doesn’t reply at all, until far after along the story. The author doesn’t state why, but context clues suggest it’s because Ari’s still mad at Dante for being extra nice to him after the car crash accident. He feels like Dante wouldn’t be his friend if he didn’t save his life. Of course, that’s not true, but who knows what’s going on inside of Ari’s mind. Weeks and weeks of resentment go by, and he’s yet to answer the letter. This shows that Ari holds a lot of grudges and doesn’t forgive and forget. He’s the type of person who needs an actual apology (for something that probably isn’t even true) before he can move on. This is not a very good character trait, but it makes Ari more realistic and relatable.
I think I am dissimilar to Ari, because I’ve mostly never had to face difficult decisions in my life. Obviously, I know my personality, my likes and dislikes, my talents, but this is in no way similar to fighting your heart about if you’re gay in the 1980s, when people are extremely homophobic. My life has been pretty straightforward leading up to now, and the conflicts I’ve had to resolve are all very simple. For example, as of this moment, my struggle is if I should aim for an ‘Extending the Standards’ or not. Every struggle I have is either school, friendship, or family related. Compared to Ari’s dilemmas, my struggles as a 13 year old girl are nothing.
These two are not the only decisions Ari has to make to shape his future, but these are definitely two of the most important and most remembered ones. As the story goes on, we will travel with Ari and see how his character changes to become a more open and more forgiving person. Until then, we can just imagine.